There is great wisdom in the Christian practice of fasting—even though its benefits are largely forgotten. Fasting is a spiritual exercise, and as such is primarily an action of the inner life. Authentic fasting draws us nearer to God and opens our hearts to receive his many gifts.

Fasting is also a sharp reminder that there are more important things in life than food. Authentic Christian fasting helps to release us from our attachments to the things of this world. It is often these worldly attachments that prevent us from becoming the-best-version-of-ourselves. Fasting also serves as a reminder that everything in this world is passing and thus encourages us to consider life beyond death.

On Ash Wednesday, you can get your forehead blessed with ashes at Mass or a prayer service. These ashes are a reminder that we need to repent.

Try going without food for several hours and you will quickly realize how truly weak, fragile, and dependent we are. This self-knowledge strips away arrogance and fosters a loving acknowledgment of our utter dependence on God.

Once you realize the spiritual power of fasting, you’ll notice that it can be applied to aspects of life beyond food. You can fast from TV, social media, cursing, gossip, or any other habit that doesn’t feed your soul.

This Lent, make a point to rediscover the power of fasting in your life!

Catholic Fasting Rules

The Church requires all Catholics from ages 14-59 to fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. As long as you are in good health, this means that you should only eat one full meal, plus two smaller meals that do not equal a full meal.

Another powerful invitation to grow in your spiritual life is abstaining from meat. Catholics age 14 and older do not eat meat on Ash Wednesday and all Fridays during Lent, including Good Friday. Instead of meat many Catholics choose to eat fish—which is why many parishes around the country have fish fries on Fridays during Lent. These are a great opportunity for a parish community to come together to pray and fast.

What About Vegetarians?

Here’s a counter-cultural statement for you: sacrifice and suffering are not always negative! The genius of Catholicism helps us make sense of these things…and teaches us that making sacrifices on purpose can have immense value.

No matter what your circumstances are, Lent is a powerful invitation to create small sacrifices, making yourself 100 percent available to God. One traditional Catholic sacrifice is giving up meat on Fridays during Lent, but if you or someone you know is a vegetarian, Fridays in Lent are an opportunity to make an alternative sacrifice. Some vegetarians might choose to give up sweets, coffee, or seasonings on Friday instead.

Make It Intentional

It is too easy to let another Lenten season slip by without really thinking about the life we want to live. It is too easy to just let life happen to us. We don’t sit down of­ten enough and think about how we are living. We often spend more time planning our annual vacations than we spend planning our lives.

Lent is a wonderful time to slow down and get really intentional. When you fast, abstain from meat, or "give something up,” make sure you are doing it intentionally. Decide that you want this year to be a Lent you never forget!

Learn More About Lent


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